A Board of Regents committee approved a "fairly unique" policy on Tuesday that would deny University System of Maryland coaches lucrative performance bonuses if their players fail to meet academic benchmarks.
The policy, endorsed unanimously by the Organization and Compensation Committee, would apply to the University of Maryland, College Park and all other schools in the university system — including Towson, Coppin State and UMBC — that field Division I athletic teams.
University system officials said they did not know of any other state that has recommended linking coaches' bonuses to their team's scores on the Academic Progress Rate, which are released by the NCAA each year.
"That's our understanding, that this is fairly unique," said Baltimore attorney David Kinkopf, the committee chairman. "The athletic departments do a really good job of emphasizing the importance of academic achievement. But we want it to be part of every coach's contract."
The policy — which would also apply to the schools' athletic directors — now moves to the full Board of Regents, which meets on Oct. 24.
"It will go there with the committee's endorsement, and hopefully it will be enacted then," Kinkopf said.
The new requirement would only apply to coaches hired after the policy is enacted.
The APR is a measure of whether athletes are on track to graduate. Teams that fall below an annual cutoff rate are subject to penalties such as loss of scholarships or practice time. But coaches' bonuses have not been affected in the past.
"I think the notion is, if we're going to give a coach a performance bonus, that coach ought to meet minimum academic standards or else the coach really does not merit a performance bonus," Kinkopf said.
Coaches can receive five-figure or six-figure incentives that are solely on-field performance-based — such as making the NCAA tournament or a bowl game — regardless of how their athletes perform in the classroom. There are bonuses in Maryland football coach Randy Edsall's contract tied to season-ticket sales and suite sales.
Maryland also frequently includes academic-based incentives in coaching contracts tied to such things as athletes' graduation rates.
The APR was developed by the NCAA and put into effect in 2004 to ensure coaches were graduating a majority of the players they recruited. Teams that fall under a certain APR score that represents around a 50 percent graduation rate can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships.
In 2011, the NCAA stripped the Terps of three football scholarships because of poor academic performance before Edsall arrived. The football team's APR has steadily improved since then.